The Ritz, Raleigh
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Last Thursday, a hopeful crowd of a couple hundred arrived at The Ritz for a show from up-and-coming reggaetón artist Farruko. Despite the awkward, multi-station, bracelet-donning process and overly expensive drinks, aptly described by INDY music editor Grayson Haver Currin
, the mostly young crowd seemed to be in a good mood. Selfies abounded, and the margins around the checkered dance floor filled with couples and groups of friends.
The show was scheduled for 8 p.m. But as seems to be part and parcel for the reggaetón experience at The Ritz, the artist announced he would not perform until 1 a.m., perhaps due to the small crowd. The same thing happened a year and a half ago with Tego Calderón, a superstar hip-hopper who played to an even smaller crowd. But being forewarned means being forearmed, so many people, including me, did not arrive until around 10 p.m.
Although Farruko took the stage at midnight, the DJ, whose name I could never catch, had to engage with the audience for a grueling four hours. And the incredible thing was that he did, pumping up the crowd with a mix of mostly salsa and bachata, throwing in some reggaetón gems just to get the younger attendees moving. The DJ ran through the country-by-country roll call time and again, and somehow, it worked. As the stage started to be set up for Farruko's entrance, the crowd cheered and danced.
This was when the weird stuff started to happen: One of The Ritz management's main concerns seems to be security. Yellow-jacketed guards were stationed all over the premises, and people would not be readmitted if they left the concert. A mugging in the bathroom garnered a fast, organized response from the security team.
The same cannot be said for when I looked to a nearby security guard for help when a young man groped me while I was standing alone in a completely open space. There was no way to argue this had been a mistaken grab in close quarters. Within three seconds, still yelling at the perpetrator as he slipped into the crowd, I notified a tall, bespectacled guard who was standing nearby—by "notify," I mean I screamed the necessarily expletive-laden information while pointing at the back of the drive-by assgrabber who had still not made it into back into the crowd. Still, I was met with a dismissive shrug. If the management has such a strict "no readmission" policy for security's sake, each one of their guards should be at least as equally committed to a "no assault" policy. It's about safety, not policing, right?
Anyway, back to the music: Is there anything stranger than a reggaetón musician with not enough swagger? Farruko came to the stage with four dancers, all of whom were more interesting than him. He plodded through songs with little energy, stopping between some tunes and moving off stage while video clips of famous friends talked about how he was the best played on the backdrop. It was awkward.
The mellow flow Farruko has cultivated gets lost on the stage. What makes Farruko interesting on albums is his use of neat samples, a mid-range subtlety that goes missing when the bass and vocals are overemphasized live. The creepy musical saw sample for "Titerito"
was inaudible. The overblown stage design and lack of interaction with the crowd did not play out well during the 45-minute set.
At some point, the audience was almost completely divided into their own circles, not paying much attention to the stage because there was so little happening. When the sing-along songs would start ("Lejos de Aquí," "Besas Tan Bien"
), the audience would excitedly reply, but Farruko showed no visible excitement in their sudden engagement. Style, flow and swagger make reggaetón work; ego alone cannot carry a concert, even with a 15-foot projection of your own face behind you.
When the artist left the stage, the crowd immediately dispersed. There was no massive call for "¡Otra! ¡Otra!" Antsy and grateful smokers finally clustered under tents before running to their cars, driving off into the chilly, rainy night.